There can be very few phone calls more harrowing than your eight year old daughter crying hysterically. She had just heard a rocket sent from Gaza explode close to her house in Batyam, shaking the building to its foundations. She was terrified.
What made it worse was that I was thousands of miles away visiting my grandmother who is living with Alzheimer’s in the UK. I was able to provide my daughter with the emotional reassurance and security she needed but without that physical touch that a situation like that requires.
My daughter is a brave girl and during that week in November 2012 assumed the role of reporter. She called every few hours with updates and began to feel less threatened and overawed by the situation. “Children are resilient” my Father commented to me.
The comfort I took from that terrible week was sitting in the company of my 81 year old grandmother, a woman with first hand experience of how it felt to be an eight year old girl, running for cover, crouching under tables as bombs exploded around her.
My grandmother was born in 1931 and lived in Maidstone, a military town 60 kilometers to the south of London. She was eight when the Second World War began. Maidstone was an immediate target for the German Luftwaffe and air raid sirens, blackouts and carpet bombing raids were frequent.
She tells a story of running home from school with her brother one afternoon as the sirens wailed. She could hear the engines and the explosions getting closer and as she got to her street she saw her next door neighbors house take a direct hit which blew the front door off her house.
My grandmother lived in Maidstone for the first two years of the war. She was eventually evacuated like most of the children from South East England to a safer part of the country and spent the final 3 years in Lancashire, Northern England.
I asked her how she felt living in such difficult and stressful times, “you just got on with it” was her predictable and sage reply. Though now living with Alzheimer’s her memories of that time are clear and vivid.
I felt a strange sense of poignancy watching my grandmother talk on the phone to her great grand daughter in Batyam during that traumatic time. She was able to offer comfort, reassurance and hope, passing on that spirit of “getting on with it” through the generations. I take a great pride in both my daughters resilience and my grandmothers too.